Engaging Disengaged Students
How to engage disengaged students
Disengaged students can cause disruption to your classroom routine. You can usually tell when kids are zoning out and thinking about their cat’s new collar, but how do we keep students engaged about our lesson topic? Because what we as teachers has to say is always SO interesting, right?! Here are five of my favourite tips to keep your students engaged and on task.
- Use a whiteboard
For students who usually go off task give them a white board and tell them you want three pieces of information written down during the mat session. Treat the whiteboard job as a privilege and explain you need someone who will listen very carefully in case we forget any details. Model appropriate behaviour with the whiteboard and don’t be afraid to take it off anyone being silly! Soon they will be fighting over this job.
- Use think/pair/share
Students love the opportunity to walk around the classroom to music and then stop, link hands and discuss a topic with a class mate. I tell my students that after the sharing session I will be asking them what their partner said. That means they are encouraged to listen and engage with the other person and repeat back another person’s point of view. It’s a great way to increase engagement through collaboration.
One of my favourite things to explain to students is that we have a no opt out policy. They know that at any time, their name could be pulled from the pop-stick container to answer a question. It’s OK to not know the answer, but it’s not OK to say ‘huh, what?’ from not listening. If a student doesn’t know the answer I let them know I will come back to them, choose another random pop-stick name to hear the answer and then come back to the original student for their answer. Students know that they could be called upon at any time during the lesson which makes them more likely to engage with what you’re saying.
- Make them the expert
Find out what your disengaged students are interested, try and relate it to a classroom appropriate topic and have them be the expert of that lesson. Are they interested in video games? You could have an ipad coding session. What about Soccer/Football? A lesson where they create their own ball game. Are they interested in Minecraft? Design their own layout using Lego and relate it to a Design and Technology assessment.
If you have access to technology in your classroom, use it! Kids LOVE programs like Kahoot, an interactive quiz. You could set up a quiz to do after a discussion session which would ensure students are engaged in what you are saying because they will need the answers for the quiz. It’s bright, has fun sounds and has a leader board as you go. Give out a simple reward for the group who gets the highest score for the best listening. Soon enough you’ll have students asking if they’re doing a Kahoot quiz as they enter the classroom each morning! It’s also a fantastic way for you to see how much information during a discussion your class retained.
Disengaged students can be hard work to bring back on task and it is draining on our limited time as educators. If we can find out what makes the student tick, make them understand we have high expectations of their behaviour (not participating is not an option) and that we value what they have to contribute to our classroom they will be more likely to engage with our lessons.